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Wolves are the intelligent and majestic ancestors of man's best friend, dogs. Should they be honored as spiritual companions, respecting Anishinaabe Indian traditions? Should they be killing fodder for the hound dogs and trappers, inflicting animal cruelty no other state provides — wolf/dog fights?

Are human beings really qualified to micromanage nature — or would benign neglect and ecotourism be the path forward? It is humans who are ravaging the climate and oceans — destroying other species at an unprecedented rate. Should we just leave well enough alone and focus on managing our own populations, violence and excesses? I think so.

The core solution is democratizing nature policy, replacing killing license funding with general public funding of the Department of Natural Resources. Fair pay, fair say.

The extreme animal cruelty involved in hunting and trapping is made obvious in the proposed management and quotas of killing wolves. Wisconsin has 3.4 million cattle, 1.4 million deer — and we have a problem with 800 wolves?

The DNR-recommended quotas are 142-233 wolf kills in seven zones over four and a half months. Add in 37 wolves already killed with landowner and USDA permits. Add the usual conservative annual estimate of 100 killed illegally and you get a third of wolf packs destroyed and dispersed randomly. The minimum wolf population goal set 20 years ago was 350. Since then science has revealed how essential wolves are to the integrity of whole ecosystems. They are the best protection we have against chronic wasting disease in the deer herd.

George Meyer, head of the killer coalition, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, clamors, "There is a need to manage the wolf population to a lower level. The quotas might be too conservative, though, to actually accomplish that goal." The goal of the bear hounders and trappers. Not science. Not healthy ecosystems.

The quotas and methods have drawn fire from DNR wildlife managers Dick Thiel and Randy Jurewicz and UW wolf researcher Adrian Treves. The season is absurdly long and the use of dogs and trapping is gratuitous abuse. Treves' studies showing extremely low wolf predation of livestock and 91 percent predictability of which few wolves predate, concentrated on 6 percent of wolf territory. Two or three guard dogs kept on farms in those areas are perceived as competing wolf packs, a successful strategy averting human/wolf conflicts. The biologists advocated no wolf hunt and cautious use of landowner kill licenses.

Treves predicted that this extremely abusive assault on wolves would be contested in lawsuits under the Wildlife Public Trust Doctrine, which states that wildlife is to be protected in trust for all citizens.

Jody Habush Sinykin, Midwest Environmental Advocates attorney, laid out before the Natural Resources Board how the wolf kill bill could be contested under animal cruelty laws. She cited the 2009 case of the Kuenzi brothers, who ran over deer with snowmobiles, leaving them crippled and dying. They also tied deer to trees and tortured them. The Kuenzis argued this was just part of hunting tradition and the laws applied only to domestic animals. The appellate ruling clarified that animal cruelty laws apply to wildlife.

Sinykin informed the board that the law could be used to keep the DNR from allowing hunting with dogs and some other practices. "When wolves and dogs mix, there are going to be few standing. It will result in fatalities, euthanasia," she said.

Dave Clausen, NRB chair, echoed her, "You're looking at a wolf/dog fight. That would have some very negative connotations. I think we should be very careful about allowing (this)."

Contrast the DNR agenda with this Italian effort to save one wolf, dying in freezing water (the text is Italian but you will understand):

Rachel Tilseth is one of the 300 volunteer wolf trackers, following wolves for 15 years near Menomonie in Dunn County. She has learned to love them. She is starting an ecotourism business, taking people out to howl with the wolves. She plans to work with the International Crane Foundation. She is collaborating with a tour group out of Delaware, coming in October for wolf tracking, and she will be working with local hotels and businesses. She has contacted the Tourism Board and the DNR for support.

How will the DNR balance wolf, crane and bear ecotourism with destroying the attractions? Tilseth sent an email saying, "I think comparing the pristine ecosystem to the wolf bleeding to death is a great way to get Wisconsinites to think about hunting versus wildlife viewing."

Fill out the DNR wolf survey (comments will be accepted until July 16) and attend a public meeting to gather input on wolf hunting.

Sign a petition to save the 1964 Wilderness Act.

Patricia Randolph of Portage is a longtime activist for wildlife. madravenspeak@gmail.com or www.wiwildlifeethic.org

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